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FIA on warpath over wrong kind of technology
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FIA on warpath over wrong kind of technology
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 May 2011   |  8:44 am GMT  |  44 comments

Further to the post earlier in the week about why the FIA is looking to clamp down on the way engines blow exhaust gases over the diffuser even when the driver lifts off the throttle, it was interesting to hear Charlie Whiting’s view on it last night.

Whiting (left) with FIA's Herbie Blash (Darren Heath)


This is the second time this season that the FIA, now under a different press management team, has sat Charlie down and got him to give a media briefing. He has done a briefing for broadcasters at the start of each season for some years, but this is something to be encouraged.

As we said earlier in the week the FIA thinks that this is the wrong kind of technology and sends out the wrong signals about the sport. That is an ideological question. Whiting’s grounds for actually challenging the way it works is to assert that it it breaks the rule about the driver activating something which affects the aerodynamics.

“An exhaust system is there for the purpose of exhausting gases from the engine, so when you are off throttle it is not doing that. Therefore driver movement is being used to influence the aerodynamic characteristics of the car,” he said.

“We were becoming increasingly concerned about the increase in extremes, shall we say. Then a bit of fuel, a bit of spark, retard, it was getting more and more extreme and that was the main reason for it.”

Whiting used the analogy of Renault’s mass damper of five years ago to say that these things have gone well beyond what they were originally intended to do and as with other ideas which have found their way into the sport and then gone down a tangent that the FIA feels is wrong, they want to rein it in.

F1 is all about pushing things to extremes, that is where the margin lies between winning and losing in the sport.

“These things start off little and start off appearing to be quite benign, ” said Whiting, “But then they get worse and worse and worse. And we are now faced with the possibility of even more extreme systems coming along, so we felt it was time to do something about it.

“Of course exhaust blowing is not new, it has been around for years, but I think Red Bull really took it to another plain with their low exhaust at the beginning of last year, and it became clearer and clearer through engine mapping that it was time to do something about it.”

So where does this leave us? Well clearly the teams are on alert that this avenue is going to be closed off imminently, even if it wasn’t implemented this weekend.

He said that the possibility existed of one of the teams without the technology, which I believe is the Cosworth powered teams, putting in a protest after the race, which could potentially disqualify most of the field and certainly all of the really fast teams.

This would be a little like Indianapolis 2005, where all the Michelin teams were forced into a position where they had to pull out of the race and only six cars ran. It makes the sport look stupid and is very hard to explain to the wider public. So I don’t think it’ll happen.

Will any teams heed the threat and disable the system and what does it take to do so?

I got the impression last night that they probably won’t, it is more aimed for the British Grand Prix onwards, but you never know. It will be interesting to follow. Any change must be made before qualifying starts as the cars are in parc ferme conditions from then on.

As for how you disable it, it’s quite simple; apparently the engineers probably wouldn’t need to remap to change the overrun throttle position, just select a different torque map.

But the cut in rear downforce will affect the way the car handles in the corners, of course, so there would be some work to be done this morning on set up to make sure of the balance, if teams were going to play it safe.

Whiting also said that the FIA is looking into the legality of Ferrari’s rear wing which he described as a very clever interpretation of rules regarding slot gaps, but possibly one which infringes those rules. We can expect more on this today.

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44 Comments
  1. Les says:

    I’d like to see this and other ‘simplifcation’ changes brought in but maybe not for the same reason; as stated, there is no road relevance here, but I don’t think everything has to be road relevant. For me it’s simply about reducing the aerodynamic dependance of these cars, so that they are more enjoyable to watch racing. I think carbon brakes should be out, fancy multiplane wings should be out, all those little bits and bobs on the endfences and sidepods, out.

    But as for a 1.6 four cylinder, no, I watch racing because it is a means of escapism, not to be reminded of the day to day. Give them free reign on the engine capacity and number of cyclinders and revs. No traction control, maybe a fuel limit, only one fuelling map. Tons of power for them to have to control by mechanical not aero means.

    1. Rudy Pyatt says:

      I’m with you on this one, for the most part. I don’t mind turbos so much, but I do mind the four-cylinder limit. I would prefer seeing the classic 1.5 liter GP displacement limit, with no restrictions on the number of cylinders. I say dump the pneumatic valves, but that’s too much to hope.

    2. Grayzee (Australia) says:

      Hmmm…”Give them free reign on the engine capacity and number of cyclinders and revs. No traction control, maybe a fuel limit, only one fuelling map. Tons of power for them to have to control by mechanical not aero means”
      Sounds like the F1 cars of the early 1980′s.
      Big fat slicks as well.
      I think i’m with you on this one!
      Oh, and please, please, please, please stay with at least 8 cylinders…….it’s the noise you see,…..those 4 bangers sound like a motor mowers on steriods.

      1. Grayzee (Australia) says:

        hahaha….I haven’t heard that term since the old speedway days in the 70′s.:-)

  2. If Charlie feels Exhaust-Blown Diffusers (EBDs) constitute driver-activated aerodynamics, then why is he seeking to limit the off-throttle function of the EBDs? That’s the one part of the EBD function which is not driver-activated.

    The point about EBDs is surely that they are activated by a moving device: namely, the crankshaft of the engine. This makes EBDs illegal, whether they are on-throttle or off-throttle.

    If Charlie first became worried by the EBD Red Bull introduced at the beginning of 2010, why is the legality of these devices only being challenged four races into the 2011 season?

    All very curious…

    1. jeff says:

      I believe that this is all a result of McLaren’s F-duct. From what I’ve read, in order to effectively ban the F-duct, the regs were changed this year to state that the aerodynamic performance of the car cannot be affected by driver movement.

      Charlie is arguing that driver movement via the throttle is affecting the aerodynamic performance of the car. Your very valid argument is that by blowing the exhaust gases over the diffuser, since the amount of exhaust gas provided is affected by the position of the driver’s right foot, you effectively have a driver actuated electronic aid.

      The counter-argument is that, by blowing the exhaust gases across the diffuser to the same degree on the overrun, you are actually negating the driver influence on the aero performance of the car, making an illegal system legal (or at least, more legal, since I doubt the actual gas flow is continuous across the range of throttle positions).

      So either exhaust-blown diffusers are illegal by rule, regardless of engine mapping, or they are made legal by playing with the engine mapping and stabilising the exhaust gas pressure so that they’re not affected by the driver.

      Given that this piece of technology is intended to make the car more stable, and hence safer, I think that Charlie needs to sit down very carefully and consider his position on this. Having the system banned being followed by a spate of crashes as the drivers try to cope with a less stable rear end would be a bit of a P.R. black eye for the FIA.

      Since Colin Kolles is now stating that he may challenge the rule at Monaco, James’ prediction of an Indianapolis-like debacle in the principality could become reality.

      Perhaps closing the loophole on Red Bull’s illegal bendy wing would a better use of his time. Yes, I know it passes the pre-race load test. I also know that, in the race, it bends more than is allowed by the regulations, and is therefore illegal.

      The obvious fix is to set up a high speed camera at the end of the fastest straight on the track. Measure the average depth of the wing end plates below the end of the nosecone (fairly easy to calibrate since the dimensions of the cars are all known in advance). If the depth has changed too much from the stationary photo taken before the race at that same spot, then the car is in breach of the rules.

      Jeff

  3. PaulL says:

    Oh look, they just need to let the teams develop and see how fast they can go!

  4. Cain McPain says:

    I think the main problem is that Cosworth engines that is almost like FIA’s official engine doesn’t allow exhaust-blown diffuser to be used. FIA should have seen it all coming back in the last season already. Now suddenly in the middle of this season they have a problem and making so rushed decisions, that doesn’t make them look very smart and makes me wonder what are they doing there anyway if they can’t see these things coming.
    Behind this rushing by FIA can only be Cosworth or Williams who are definitely most unhappy team right now there on the grid. Changing into Cosworth engine year ago and going to stock market with great expectations and it’s not going the way they wanted, I think they didnt even see in their worst nightmares that they would be doing so bad.
    And now when Renault is asking to supply for one extra team, if FIA doesn’t change something, it will be just 2 Cosworth teams out of 4 left and in 1 or 2 years it would be Cosworth gone just as quick as he came.
    So all in all I see FIA fighting for the right thing but this decision should have been made already at the end of the last season. Makes me wonder what is their purpose of job there, just collecting money from teams or maybe they should use their brain cells once in a while.

  5. jonrob says:

    Surely it’s essentially a software modification in the engine map, Easy enough to change by cutting a chunk of code out and re-compiling, then blowing a new eprom. BUT the engine may well not work as efficiently afterwards since the many months were spent writing and testing the maps are effectively up in smoke. Though there are several maps on each car for different race conditions, one of the others may be easier to modify. It may well be that one of the maps already cuts out the overrun afterburner effect .

  6. Damian J says:

    It’s woefully late for FIA to start suggesting it’s the wrong technology for F1 after allowing Renault / Redbull to use this technology in the first place to win championships. What do they expect…that other teams would not follow in this direction?

    1. Stardust says:

      Perfectly put Damian – I want to see races competed and challenged by the best teams and drivers.

      Todays qualifying was a sad event. RB have a second advantage – while I appreciate the need for technical development and competition – that margin was achieved by allowing RB a years worth of progress in open fields, by what they now say was known about rule breaking. Today we see false racing and a “staged” event and kind of leaves last years championship sullied and this years even moreso.

      Kind of takes the edge, thrill and appreciation away from the race for me.

      Championships and Titles are there to be won, drivers have finite careers – It saddens me to know that they willingly and knowingly let RB take last years titles at a time they knew they were breaking their rules.

      Its only now as they see a consequence of allowing a team a years head start in open fields on others that they see the consequence of that deception.

      What’s the point if the governing body don’t govern and in effect choose who they want titles to go to.

    2. Lefty says:

      100% correct. RB are allowed to have flex wings.
      But other teams get their developments banned on the grounds of it not been within the “spirit of the laws”. Ferrari brings a cleverly designed wing to the GP it gets band not because it is illegal but because it is not within the “spirit of the rules”. Same thing happened to Ferrari’s movable floor in 2007. Which by the way at the time was not illegal but not within “spirit of the rules”.
      RB has wings that flex which constitutes movable aero and some how its fine?!?!

  7. Brace says:

    I’m getting a feeling that all the engineers who work in FIA (and I’m not even sure Whiting is an engineer) are those who could never come up with something new themselves, and are taking pleasure in burying the good ideas of good engineers instead. You know, enjoying others’ lows instead of enjoying their own highs.

    That thing that says that it’s influenced by driver is really pathetic, because genius in this system is that it actually IS NOT dependent on the throttle, but is running all the time to provide downforce even when a driver is off the throttle.

    1. DH says:

      Bureaucrats. FIAsco. Legality? Little late isn’t it? And wasn’t CW the one who said he knew about Piquet Jr. and did not speak up?

    2. nando says:

      Charlie Whiting was certainly had enginneering pedigree from his background. It’s the FIA job to limit the teams otherwise why bother with having any regulations at all?
      With the flex-wing regulation (not test) and minimum ground clearance rules being violated they’ve been very lenient recently.

  8. Mattw says:

    Could one of the top teams (say a McLaren or a Ferrari) remove the system ahead of the race, then launch a protest after?

    1. the_rh1no says:

      Apparently yes they could. However, it is unlikely one of the top teams is actually able to remove the system quickly as it is a fundamental part of their design. The only people who would probably be capable of launching a protest are virgin and hispania, possibly Williams, but I don’t understand what effect the new diffuser has on their position in this argument.

  9. James Walton says:

    Was the Heidfeld fire caused by the exhaust routing forwards to the driver/fuel tank area? We havent had incidents like this in a long time, and we dont want fire back into F1 for any reason, let alone to gain a few milliseconds off the lap time. Get rid of it by Silverstone?

    1. Brace says:

      Get off your moral high horse and smell the gasoline.
      You start off your comment by asking a question. Then you are taking your assumption as a fact, and based on that imaginary fact, you are asking for this system to be banned because you are worried about safety?

      I see 10s of other cars with the same system, running for a second season now and no fire at all. I too think it was related to exhaust, but problem is that it was cracked, not that it was made to exit near the bottom.

      I’m sure you are one of the first to object about people “bringing the sport into disrepute” too…

    2. Paul H says:

      I think it was caused by the off throttle engine mapping rather than the forward routing. The engine mappings mean that the cars end up with unburnt fuel being ignited in the exhaust rather than the chamber. It was stated that there was a crack in the exhaust – add in fuel burning in the pipe and i’d imagine you’d get what we saw today. The forward exhaust just means that the fire heads towards the driver which isn’t exactly ideal.

  10. Brace says:

    And to add my last line to this sorry case, I think FIA is on an eternal warpath with fans if anything…
    I’ve been watching F1 for almost 2 decades now, and there were perhaps 1/7 decisions that fans overall welcomed.

  11. Nick Hipkin says:

    James,

    I read from your old colleague Martin Brundle last night that there is increasing talk of the new 1.6 Turbo engines being abandoned, do you have any more on this?

    Cheers

  12. toleman fan says:

    “…driver movement is being used to influence the aerodynamic characteristics of the car…”

    So? Charlie Whiting decided that the F-duct was legal last year, even though “driver movement” “influence(d) the aerodynamic characteristics of the car”.

    As usual, the FIA is following the Humpty Dumpty doctrine, words mean whatever they feel like on the day.

    If anything, the point of “driver movement” (of the throttle pedal) in the exhaust-blown cars is that it should have -no influence at all- on the aerodynamics of the car. The aim is to make the car behave identically whether or not the driver is on the throttle.

    As far as I can see, the real issue is that -either- the EBD is illegal per se (because it supposedly turns the entire engine into a “moveable aerodynamic device”) -or- the cars that blow the EBDs off throttle are legal, but the ones that don’t aren’t. Either way, the FIA’s position seems to be clearly wrong.

    I’m fascinated that Charlie is citing the Mass Damper example, as that seems to be a benchmark example of the FIA changing its mind overnight on a whim without any legitimate basis. The damper should have been banned with effect from the end of the season, not half way through the year after cars had been optimised around it with the full knowledge and approval of the FIA. Exactly the same here. The only reason I’m not (very) angry is that the FIA are such a disgraceful shower it’s hard to even be surprised any more.

    1. Brace says:

      “The only reason I’m not (very) angry is that the FIA are such a disgraceful shower it’s hard to even be surprised any more.”

      Too true.
      James, we should get this engraved and hanged on the top of your blog. :)
      I’m sure it’s something most of the fans feel too.

  13. AlexD says:

    As always…consistency is something that is not very well known to FIA. Double Decker diffuser – OK. Blown exhaust – OK. Smart interpretation of rules in case of rear Ferrari wing – illegal.

  14. ram says:

    more fia dribble.They couldnt write a clear set of rules if they wanted to.
    Oh,they want the rules cloudy…..that makes sense.

  15. Rich C says:

    “it breaks the rule about the driver activating something which affects the aerodynamics”

    How idiotic. How {expletive deleted} stupid.

    Every time the driver turns the wheel he is “activating something which affects the aerodynamics”. Those big, round Pirelli things up front, y’know!

    Every time the driver moves his head, every time he brakes, every time he does practically *anything in fact, he affects the aero.

    Get a grip, FIA, you look like a bunch of amateur lawyers trying to run an engineering competition!

  16. Paul H says:

    Thanks for that James, it’s really interesting to get CW’s view on this and I can appreciate the argument that what starts small can get out of hand. But surely there is a better way of dealing with the situation through clearer communication? Instead of waiting till the teams have spent x amount on the systems why not put them on notice that the FIA will not tolerate beyond very clear limits and enforce this. Saves the teams time, money and manpower.

    Really can’t see anyone trying to drop the majority of the field in the brown smelly stuff as I think it would create a very bad image for them in the fan’s eyes and would mean that the other teams would jump on the slightest error by them.

    Now, when will they sort out the flexing wings…..

    1. mtb says:

      There are a few arguments which probably make it easier to rule against exhaust-blown diffusers.

      Wing “flexing” is harder to devise a rule for and enforce. The test was changed this year, but ultimately if the wing passes the test and there is no mechanism aiding the flexing of the wing other than aerodynamic forces then there is not much that can be done,

      1. no no says:

        its movable aero. which is Illegal end of story. the rule has no grey area. The “test” is a joke. force india were saying that their own front wing generates 750kg’s of down force. Yet they test the if the wings flex with a 100kg weight? And its allowed to flex 20mm

      2. mtb says:

        I agree that the test isn’t representative and have stated this previously. Every aero device moves to some extent. If the other teams thought that Red Bull was not complying with the regulations then they would have made a protest long ago.

      3. Paul H says:

        This is where I get confused with the way they decide on legality. At no point should any part of the front wing be lower than the reference plane, yet there are plenty of photos and video footage showing that this is not the case. This shows the wing is not legal. BUT the wing passes a test which adds load in a different manner that that which causes the flex on the circuit, therefore making the wing legal.
        I understand the difficulty in a test at the circuit accurately recreating/testing the flex but why can’t the FIA use photographic and video footage as evidence?

      4. mtb says:

        Presumably the accuracy of any photos or video footage could easily be challenged. A reference object of known height would have to be included in any photos that were being used, which would be very impractical.

      5. no no says:

        +1

      6. Paul H says:

        i’d argue that there are objects of known dimensions – the cars themselves which the FIA can measure at any time so only a few measurements would be needed. Failing that there are four control items always present on any car – the tyres. All you need is a picture of sufficient resolution with the wing showing flex with the wheel at an angle you can see the wheel rim and you have your known dimension, even better if you have the rear wheel in shot so you can get a sense of perspective on the angle of the car.

  17. toleman fan says:

    What I don’t understand is why Bernie hasn’t gone berserk about this stuff years ago. Especially since Charlie Whiting & Herbie Blash are his guys from the Brabham days.

    The point is that when the FIA makes arbitrary rule changes mid-season like this (never mind that it’s clearly doing so to manipulate the results), alot of major corporates who understand the deal are going to run a mile. How badly do you have to want to sponsor an F1 team if you realise that its competitiveness may be transformed in either direction at random by the governing body? And that such a transformation may actually just be collateral damage / payoff from the FIA’s focus on stopping some -other- team running off with the chammpionship?

    Even on this forum, people still post that Renault “cheated” with the mass damper. Who wants to risk being associated with something like that? How big does the payoff have to be?

    This is just poor governance. There’s really no excuse.

    1. mtb says:

      I haven’t seen many people accuse Renault of cheating, but most people who comment on the issue incorrectly accuse Ferrari of being responsible for mass dampers being banned. Many teams competed with mass dampers in 2005-6, so anybody who accuses Renault of cheating should accuse all teams that use the devices of cheating.

  18. Born 1950 says:

    I think Charlie Whiting is right to close this route off. It appears it had got to the point in race conditions where lifting off the accelerator pedal no longer closed the throttles — it just massively retarded the ignition timing so that gas flow was produced rather than power.

    Surely the simplest solution to kill this particular interpretation of the rules is to require the exhausts to exit at a specific point where the gasses can no longer modify the aerodynamics.

    1. toleman fan says:

      - ” It appears it had got to the point… where lifting off the accelerator pedal no longer closed the throttles — it just massively retarded the ignition timing…”

      And this would be ilegal under the existing rules how?

      Hypothetically, is there any requirement to field a car with any throttle control?

      What if you just announced explicitly that the car had a pedal to control ignition advance / retard, and a button on the steering wheel to switch to trailing throttle in the pitlane? If you could build an engine to stand the abuse, would there be any objection under any existing regs?

      And if you did that, how could anyone claim that that pedal influenced the car’s aero, since exhaust blowing would be almost entirely independent of the control position?

  19. Tim says:

    Whiting’s whole demeanor on this issue sounds like he’s looking for a fight. The question is why? Pushing a rule change as radical as this in the middle of a season is [mod]. Just ban it starting in 2012. Designers and engineers will gripe and complain but they’ll put together a quality and SAFE final product.

  20. Neil F12011 says:

    All rule changes at the end of the season, F1 is always changing rules, i’m sick of it

  21. Stefanos says:

    This seems to be clutching at the straws. As you write, James, it is about not being the right technology – it is not green. The rest is (desparate) post-hoc rationalisation.

    What if the alternative engine map was not actuated by the driver lifting the throttle, but by an automated system that simply detects decelleration? Or a therhold of engine rpm?

    What if we are to assume that all aero is influenced by the driver lifting, or pressing the throttle (since it alters the rate of airflow over all aero devices), or turning the steering wheel (as it affects the angle of flow over all aero devices)?

    If there are indeed “extreme” cases, then why not simply impose new rules that render “extreme” cases illegal thereby halting further development?

    This is all very strange indeed.

  22. An interesting topic. Is it really believed that this will greatly affect teams like Red Bull ? If that will stop Vettel from winning the WDC now, why the delay of June 16 ? Until then, Vettel will secure another two wins at Monaco and Valencia, Canada is not likely for him.

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